Following the recent high-profile cases of drink fuelled violence and a growing concern over the affects excessive alcohol is having on people’s health, the Government are proposing a minimum alcohol price as part of an alcohol strategy which has been set out by the Home Office; the announcement comes in the same week that the National end of life care Intelligence Network published figures which showed the number of people dying of liver disease is increasing.
Minimum pricing would mean that alcohol would be sold at 40p a unit meaning the cost for a 70cl bottle of vodka would be £10.62, a two litre bottle of cider would sell for £4.24 and 750ml of red wine would sell for £3.92.
As well as minimum unit pricing, the strategy proposes a consultation on the ban on the sale of multi-buy alcohol discounting, improved powers for local areas to be able to control the density of licensed premises and pilots of sobriety schemes which would focus on offending related to alcohol.
In the alcohol strategy detailed on the Home Office website, the Government has also committed to an overhaul of the Licensing Act, giving councils permission to close down pubs and clubs which continually serve alcohol to children and the maximum fine imposed for selling alcohol to children would be raised to £20,000.
On 25 April, local councils will have the power to charge more for late-night licenses; the extra fees would contribute to the cost of additional policing. Councils will also have the power to stop late-night alcohol sales if they are causing problems.
A statement issued by Downing Street on Friday afternoon said that there was nearly 1 million alcohol related crimes in 2011 and 1.2 million people were admitted to hospital as a result of excessive drinking.
David Cameron said:
“Binge drinking isn’t some fringe issue, it accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in this country. The crime and violence it causes drains resources in our hospitals, generates mayhem on our streets and spreads fear in our communities.”
“My message is simple. We can’t go on like this. We have to tackle the scourge of violence caused by binge drinking. And we have to do it now.”
“So we’re going to attack it from every angle. More powers for pubs to stop serving alcohol to people who are already drunk. More powers for hospitals not just to tackle the drunks turning up in A&E – but also the problem clubs that send them there night after night. And a real effort to get to grips with the root cause of the problem. And that means coming down hard on cheap alcohol.”
“When beer is cheaper than water, it’s just too easy for people to get drunk on cheap alcohol at home before they even set foot in the pub. So we are going to introduce a new minimum unit price – so for the first time it will be illegal for shops to sell alcohol for less than this set price per unit. We’re consulting on the actual price, but if it is 40p that could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol related deaths per year by the end of the decade.”
The Prime Minister also stated that the move would not affect the price of a pint in a pub but accepted that the proposal would not be “universally popular”.
In a response to the proposals, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has issued a statement calling David Cameron “misguided” and said “It’s simplistic to imagine a minimum price is some sort of silver bullet solution to irresponsible drinking”. The BRC also described it as “a tax on responsible drinkers”.